By Amy Vickrey, MSE

There are days my son just needs time to play. As a homeschool mom, I feel accountable for his time during the day and ensuring that he is spending the time he should on “school.” So on the days when my son expresses a deep need to spend time engaged in play, I have to remind myself that play is learning too. Whether by himself or engaged with other children, my son is learning from his interaction with toys, his brother, cousins and friends.

Specific Skills Learned Through Play
There are many skills that are learned through play. From playing with blocks to pretending and playing with friends, the skills learned while engaged in play are beneficial to any child. Our special children need to be engaged in play even more! For a child like mine, who develops social and other skills at a slower rate, play is so important to reinforce his skills and teach him new ones as he is ready to learn them. Take a look at the kinds of things our kids are learning through play.

Social Skills: Sharing, turn taking, negotiating, compromising, and leading or following

Physical Skills: Fine motor (in preparation for or to reinforce writing skills), large muscle, spatial awareness

Language and Literacy Skills: Phonological awareness (how sounds make up words and are used in words), conversation skills (taking turns, responding appropriately, discussion between character toys), communication skills (expressing desires and needs), new vocabulary they need for play with a certain toy

Cognitive Skills: Math, problem solving skills, science skills (physics), trial and error, learning how to make it better the next time

Self-Esteem: Show accomplishments and abilities, trying out new things without feeling pressured, relating accomplishments to peers or adults nearby (“See,” or “Look at me”)

Preparing for Life Ahead: Learning independence, thinking, making decisions, cooperating/collaborating with others, problem solving, goal setting and accomplishment

Social Developmental Stages of Play
As children grow and develop, the way they play changes. Each of these stages are important and children must grow through these stages at their own pace. There are ways to help them grow into the next stage if a child has difficulties.

Unoccupied Play: When a child is busy playing but they are not engaged with any people or toys, and the play appears random.

Solitary Play: Playing with a toy by themselves and not being interested in the toys or activities of others.

Onlooker Play: The child watches others play but does not join in the play.

Parallel Play: The child plays side-by-side with other children, with the same toys, but does not interact with the other children.

Associative Play: The child plays with other children, but they do not share a common goal.

Cooperative Play: Play becomes organized into groups and teamwork, children learn to share the goal of the group and play by the group “rules,” willing to both contribute and accept others’ opinions.

It is fascinating to watch children grow and learn through these different stages, and the stages are important to learning how to work with others later in life. Even time spent in solitary play can help a child gain skills as they have their toys interact with one another, and they interact with their toys.


Supporting Your Child in Play

Learning how to play with your child takes time and practice, but it is fun and worth your while! Here are some suggestions for playing with your child:

Observe: Watch what your child is doing. What he doing well? What might he need help with? What are his favorite activities?

Follow: When you join in, follow along with what your child is doing, try not to “take over,” but to follow the rules and guidelines they set up

Be Creative: Don’t worry about looking “silly,” enjoy playing with your child! I have worn many things on my head or “drank and ate” many made up meals. Also, use toys in different ways to show new and unique ways to do something your child might not have thought of yet.

Ask Questions: Talk with your child about their play and make conversation. Just enjoy being in the world of your child for however long you have, even if it is just 5 minutes! A little time can make a big difference!

Make a Plan: When you transition to or play, have your child make a plan of what they are going to go play and how they are going to do it (“I’m going to build a house with blocks”), then help them get started on their plan. This teaches how to set a goal and accomplish it! Then, they can go on and play other things.

If your life is like mine, the time my children are engaged in play is about the only time I have for myself to catch my breath, wash dishes or prepare for the next subject in school. That time is important, but I also try to make time everyday to play! Have Fun!

Learn More About Play
Information from some of these sites were used in writing this article. If you would like to learn more about learning through play, we encourage you to check them out.

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play
3 Benefits of Learning Through Play
What Children Learn Through Play
Children Learn Through Play
Supporting Play Activities
Six Stages of Play: How Children Develop Social Skills
How Kids Learn to Play: 6 Stages of Development
Tools of the Mind

Also, make sure to check out all the great resources from SPED Homeschool on our YouTube Channel, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Podcasts (on Podomatic/iTunes/GooglePlay), and Twitter.

 

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Easter is a wonderful time of renewal and a great time to change up your homeschooling schedule to dig into the true meaning of Easter, add a fun Easter twist to your learning activities, or try something new.

The resources given below are my top free picks from the SPED Homeschool Easter Pinterest board. If you want more inexpensive and adaptable resources, make sure to check out all the links on that board. Or, better yet, check out all the SPED Homeschool Pinterest boards for resources to help you in every area of homeschooling a student with special educational needs.

Discovery Learning:
Easter Story Scavenger Hunt – Make teaching the Easter story to your children an adventure with this scavenger hunt
 Scripture Verse Easter Egg Craft – Use this free printable to create beautiful eggs to convey the true meaning of Easter
Easter Nature Lesson – Tie in parallels from nature to teach your children the Easter story
Easter in Germany Unit Study – Spend a few days, or a whole week, using these resources to study how Easter is celebrated in Germany

Therapy:
 Scissor Skills Easter Activity – See how cutting Easter grass is a great way to have your child work on their scissor skills
 Easter Egg Speech Therapy Ideas – 10 ways to use plastic Easter eggs to teach speech lessons to your child
Oral Motor Easter-Themed Game – A fun way to develop oral motor skills during the Easter season
 Occupational Therapy Easter Egg Pre-Writing – Create this fun writing activity on your own dry erase board
Visual Recognition Easter Egg Matching – Work on your child’s visual recognition skills as they match eggs with mismatched parts to their corresponding card

Language Arts:
Language Arts Egg Activities – Use these simple activities to practice spelling, grammar, and writing with plastic eggs as the delivery vehicle for the lesson
Spelling Contraction Activity – Use this free printout with labeled plastic Easter eggs to make learning and practicing contractions a lot of fun
Egg Alphabet – Practice spelling, writing, matching, and the other ideas shared on this site with this colorful, free printable

Active Learning:
Brain Breaks Easter Egg Hunt – Get your kids moving as they search for eggs during your daily homeschooling breaks
Gross Motor Basket of Eggs Activity – Use balloons for eggs and challenge your kids with these fun activities that will get them moving and working together
Easter Egg Toss Game – Get up and active while teaching math skills using this inventive idea for converting plastic cups and eggs into learning tools

STEM:
 STEM Easter Egg Rocket Experiment – Create rockets with some ordinary household supplies and plastic Easter eggs
Hide & Seek Number Recognition Game – Use plastic Easter eggs for this fun game that will help your child work on their number recognition skills
Easter Egg Math Activities – Use this simple idea doing hands-on practicing of math facts
Weighed Easter Egg Activity – Use filled Easter eggs and weighted objects to figure out the weight of each egg
Lego Easter Designs – Use these simple instructions to create mosaics and simple figures
 Racing Eggs to Teach Gravity – Sneak in a science lesson while your children race their plastic eggs to the finish line

Happy Easter! Jesus rose from the grave, so let us celebrate our risen Savior and the promise that truth holds for all who believe!

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

When my kids were younger, I was not the type to be cooped up inside, especially during the holiday season when there was so much going on. But, even though I loved getting out and enjoying the holiday sights, my oldest on the Autism Spectrum was a bit of a scrooge about it all. 

Instead of allowing my son’s bah-humbug holiday attitude to keep us all home, I decided to create sensory-friendly field trips that would limit crowds, lights, and noise.  So, if you are looking for ways to get everyone out the house this holiday season, here are my top 10 holiday homeschool field trip suggestions.

 

#1 – Historic Sites
Visiting a historic home, fort, or site is a great holiday outing, especially on a weekday. Many of these sites go all out with decorating for the holidays, and although they are very busy on weekends, they still maintain hours during the less busy weekdays.  To find the historical society in your area, and the local sites they maintain, you can search the Preservation Directory by state and region.

directory

 

 

#2 – Hiking and Geocaching
Geocaching is an awesome family activity, and one that can not only become a new holiday tradition, but a fun family pastime.  Hiking alone makes for a wonderful field trip, but when you turn the hike into a treasure hunt, it becomes an over-the-top adventure. 
Caches on or near hiking trails are very common, so plan a holiday hike near a cache or plan to hide a new one on the trail.  The largest website devoted to this pastime is Geocaching.com. On this site you will find everything you need to know about finding and hiding caches.

geocaching.com

 

 

#3 – Christmas Tree Farm
Cutting your own Christmas tree is a lot of fun, and a very festive activity. And although tree farms can be rather busy during the holiday season, they do maintain less busy hours amidst the holiday tree-buying frenzy.  The key is finding less busy times, and it usually just takes a quick phone call.  Most of these farms are family-owned and more than happy to help you make your visit enjoyable and accommodating to your family’s needs.

 

#4 – Ceramic Shop
During the holiday season, local ceramic shops are usually equipped for kids’ groups to come and paint ornaments, nativity sets, and even items kids can personalize to give as gifts.  A quick search on Google will give you a list of your local ceramic shops and their hours of operation. 

 

#5 – Library
Your local library is likely to have at least a few holiday events; some of them during  daytime hours or as ongoing holiday season activities.  Check with your librarian, or on your local library website, to find out if your library is offering any sensory-friendly or quieter daytime activities your family could participate in.

 

#6 – Parks and Painted Rocks
Painting rocks and leaving them for others to find is a trend cropping up all over the United States.  No matter how artistic you are, or how capable your kids are at painting in general, this activity can easily become a new family holiday tradition.  To find out more about how to paint and leave rocks for others to find, you can visit the Kindness Rock Project website.

kindness rock project

 

 

#7 – Winter Sports

If you have an active family and live up north, winter sporting options abound. For those who like going fast, skiing and snowboarding are great options. Most ski resorts offer homeschool days when you can rent equipment and get lift tickets at a reduced rate during the less busy weekdays. Plus, many ski resorts also have equipment to accommodate children and adults with disabilities.

If you like to go at a slower place, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing may be better options.  Local park and recreation departments often have trails and rentable equipment for both of these winter sports. Local parks are also a great place to go sledding, and their sledding hills are guaranteed to be empty almost days when public school is in session. And, whether you live up north or not, there is still one winter sport almost anyone can enjoy during the holidays: ice skating.  Temporary ice skating rinks in the north can be found outside most of the winter, and during the holiday season many southern cities also set up temporary ice rinks indoors, fully stocked with rentable skates.

 

#8 – Holiday Daytime Performances
School groups as well as homeschool families can access daytime holiday performances.  Most children’s theaters, ballet companies, and orchestras offer discounted tickets for these performances which are geared to the younger audience.  If your child has specific needs for accessibility during the performance, make sure to call the theater directly to book your tickets so they can arrange for seats that meet those needs.  Bringing earmuffs to muffle noises can also help children who are easily distracted or who may be anxious about loud noises during the performance.

 

#9 – Nursing Home Visit
Local nursing homes love to have kids visit. Plus, what kid doesn’t like having a few extra grandparents?  If your family has never considered visiting your local nursing home, the holiday season is a perfect time to start because there are always so many activities planned throughout December.
Most nursing homes have a volunteer coordinator you can call to find out how your family can get involved. By letting the coordinator know the specific needs of your kids, they will be able to determine which activities would be the best suit your family’s involvement.

 

#10 – Tourist Attractions
Many tourist attractions decorate, or have special exhibits, for the holidays.  And, while these places may be busy on evenings and weekends, they also have lower peak times you can take advantage of with your homeschooling schedule.  Museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, and tours (caves, factories, etc.) are great places to check out. Call ahead to find out when the attraction expects visits to be lower in volume, when there will be less groups visiting, and if any of the special exhibits have hours that differ from the general admission times.

 

General Homeschool Field Trip Advice
You might be a pro at homeschool field trips, but if not, this video will help you think through the most important things you will need to consider when taking your special needs child on a field trip.

 

 

 

 

Most important of all, have a great time making memories with your kids this holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 


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